Traveling safely during a pandemic

When you think of COVID-19, does traveling come to mind? 

For most people, it’s the last thing on their mind. And for a while, it was for me, too. 

After a busy winter with my company, I felt burnt out and needed to get away from the same region of the country I’ve been stuck in since March 2020. 

So I decided to go visit my family…in Florida. 

My family members said I should drive but I am a broke college kid who can’t afford all that gas. They then said I shouldn’t come, but I persisted and decided to be stubborn and fly. 

Everyone supported me and said it will be great to see me. I was excited, but nervous as well.

I wasn’t nervous because of COVID-19 though. It was a mix of not flying in 5 years and flying alone for the first time. Flying alone wasn’t a big thing, but just something I needed to do and get it over with. 

So, you’re asking what was traveling during this pandemic like? Well before I go any further, I want to say this. I am not living on campus, I’m fully remote. The only restrictions I had to be concerned with were what my state was applying since I wasn’t planning to go to campus at all after my trip. 

My point is: please don’t take my words and say “Oh, so it’s okay to fly? Let’s go!” Please continue to follow the rules and restrictions put in place by the officials governing your area. 

Anyways, I was flying out of Manchester, NH to Baltimore, MD (BWI) then to Jacksonville, FL.

When I arrived at the airport, it was a ghost town. I arrived an hour and 45 minutes early since I didn’t know what to expect. Delayed bag check-in? Slower security process? Who knew. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw nobody there. I put on my mask and entered the airport. 

Checking in my bag was different than in the past, it was completely contactless. I walked up to a kiosk, scanned my ticket (which was on my phone,) entered how many bags I was checking in, and printed tickets (just in case my phone died). 

After printing my tickets and the checked bag tag, an airline employee took my bag, weighed it, and wished me a safe flight. 

I then headed to the TSA security checkpoint. No lines, no waiting. I walked directly to the TSA officer who checked my ticket and driver’s license. He was sitting in a plexiglass box, wearing two masks and gloves.

Once I cleared that step, it was business as usual. The noticeable differences were the plexiglass walls that divided me and the officers. Everyone was wearing masks and keeping their distance.

The time it took me to go from checking in my bag to getting to my gate was 10 minutes, and that included a comment from a TSA officer: “you don’t have to rush, you’re the only one here.” It was great.

I used the restroom, got a snack for the flight, and sat at my gate for an hour and a half doing homework.

The boarding process was different. Instead of 60 people boarding at once, Southwest Airlines did it in groups of ten—well that’s what they advertised at least. This was only done at Manchester; it wasn’t followed at BWI (there or back) or Jacksonville.

Once on the plane, they made it clear that the middle seat wasn’t reserved any more. It was fair game. I got lucky that the middle seat was open both flights to Florida.

Once we landed in Baltimore, the airport was completely different from Manchester. It was PACKED. People were wearing masks but weren’t really social distancing. Once I found my connecting flight’s gate, I purposely kept moving around so that I wasn’t near the same people for an extended period of time.

Open middle seat for me from BWI to Jacksonville. The only thing that happened on this leg of the flight that made me go “huh” was when they gave out the in-flight snacks.

Masks must be worn at all times in the airport and in the planes except for when eating or drinking. So when they handed out the in-flight snack, all the masks in the flight came off.

I decided to save my snack and once the majority of the people were done eating, that’s when I dove into my snack, but I didn’t fully take off my mask unlike others.

Once on the ground in Florida, it was a jungle. People literally were taking off their masks while walking off the jetway into the airport. It was wild how people didn’t follow rules or regulations, but oh well.

The week in Florida was fun, and the trip home was basically the same. It was Jacksonville to BWI to Manchester. Jacksonville TSA was the same as NH, quick in, quick out. 

I wasn’t so lucky to have an open middle seat from JAX to BWI, so that was a little uncomfortable. But from BWI to Manchester, I had an open middle seat in my row. It was nice. 

Overall, traveling wasn’t horrible. Wear a mask, be safe, and just follow the rules and you’ll be all set. I did get a negative COVID test when I got home even though while I was in FL, the NH governor removed travel quarantine requirements for domestic travel into NH. I still got tested just for the peace of mind for myself and my family.

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